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Activity Do's and Don'ts Banner

Activity Do's and Don'ts

Open Heart Surgery Handbook



Walking helps improve circulation, increases muscle strength, and relieves stiffness and soreness. Gauge your walks at home in comparison to those during your final days at the Medical Center. You should gradually increase both distance and time each day, though it is natural to have days when you don’t feel like walking much, or at all. On these days, drop your pace and work toward increasing your pace and distance the next time out.

Please note that weather is an important consideration in your walking regimen. During the summer, try to walk during the cool part of the day. In cold weather, avoid walking when the chill factor drops below 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and cover your mouth and nose (cold air makes the lungs and heart work harder). Many area malls offer walking periods, which serve as a great alternative during the winter.

During the first few weeks, it is best to take frequent short walks, rather than one or two long walks. By the end of your recovery, you should be walking 1-2 miles once or twice daily.

Exercise/Recreation (in moderation)

Initially, the best activities are low-level ones (playing cards, attending the theatre, fishing from a bank, putting practice, sunbathing, spectator sports). Eventually, WHEN YOUR DOCTOR GIVES YOU A RELEASE, you can play a full game of golf, tennis, fish from a boat, hunt, swim, jog, etc. Approach these activities gradually. Remember, moderation is the key.




Avoid driving a car for approximately 4-6 weeks after surgery, as it will be physically uncomfortable and your reaction time will be slowed due to weakness, fatigue and medication. Also, there is a risk of injury to the breastbone, which is still healing.

Lawn or Housework

To limit strain on your breastbone, avoid mowing the lawn, mopping, vacuuming or any activity that places strain on your chest and/or upper arms. Your physician will let you know when it is safe to begin light lawn and housework.

Lifting Heavy Objects

Men should not lift objects weighing ten pounds or more. Women should not lift objects weighing five or more pounds.
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